Faith-based health, aged and community care providers, including the Catholic sector, should continue with their mission-based work in the face of a growing secularisation and attacks on the Church, former Prime Minister John Howard told the sector.
Speaking at the Catholic Health Australia conference in Brisbane on 24 August, Mr Howard told the audience of more than 270 delegates that they should not resile from their mission but rather double down on it.
“Just continue the work that you are doing. The work of religious organisations is inspired by conscientious commitment to the values of Christianity,” Mr Howard said when asked about the drift away from established religion, as evidenced in the latest census results.
Asked by his interviewer St Vincent’s Health Australia Chair Paul McClintock AO what advice he would give to the leaders who have gathered at the conference.
“The fact that there may be declines in nominal commitments to different denominations in the Christian religion does not alter the fact that the work that your organisations do is driven by your Christian values. The more you do that – the more impressive the contribution.”
The Howard government was notable in opening up the provision of government welfare and social services programs to be delivered by the not-for-profit sector, including faith-based organisations.
Mr Howard, one of about 20 speakers over the two-day event, went on to say: “Why would you stop? Why wouldn’t you increase your efforts rather than be daunted by the latest rendition from the statisticians.”
Admitting that he is an optimist he added: “People will always respond to compassion and decency and always respond to someone who cares.”
And in a reference to politicians who have lost their seats to the prevailing swing, despite being liked and admired for being a good local member, he added: “There is always a place for the decent opponent and I think it is a terrible shame we have lost sight of that. We are told repeatedly that we have but I am not so sure about that.”
With thanks to Catholic Health Australia.